Protestant Pastors in Rome to Study Catholicism

Initiative of Ecumenical Center

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ROME, MARCH 11, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A new course on Catholicism is being noticed not on account of its subject matter, but rather because of some non-traditional students -- Lutheran pastors.



"Learn Catholicism in Rome" is an initiative of the Melantone Center, a Protestant institution of ecumenical studies in Rome, and supported by the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Italy.

The course gathered 16 men and women pastors of German-speaking Lutheran churches in Rome, through next Wednesday, to learn more about the Catholic Church as well as the city itself and its function as an ecumenical center.

"We want to make it understood that Rome is not only the Vatican, but that it has historical sites that are very important for us, such as the excavations of St. Peter, for example," said Martin Wallraff, one of the three professors of the course.

"Rome is not only the world center of Catholicism, but also a place of theological formation and joint ecumenical work," Wallraff, a member of the Melatone Center, told ZENIT.

The participants will visit several Vatican dicasteries, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The pastors will attend a meeting with Benedictine Father Albert Schmidt, the rector of the International Institute of St. Anselm, to understand theological formation in a pontifical institution.

"In Germany, theology is studied in state faculties; therefore, it is a very different structure," commented Wallraff, promoter of the course and pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy.

Courses will be taught by Wallraff, professor of theology at the University of Jena, Walter Schöpsdau of the Ecumenical Institute of Bensheim, and Jochen Rexer of Rome.

Among the events planned for this course, is a visit to the Byzantine Catholic abbey of Grottaferrata for the Easter liturgy.

"In this way," added Wallraff, "we will also enter into contact with an important Catholic reality and see that it is not just the Roman rite that exists."